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Jackson Liberty High School to host marching band competition on Oct. 15

JACKSON – Fans of high school marching bands are expected to turn out for a Tournament of Bands outdoor competition that will showcase award-winning bands on Oct. 15 at Jackson Liberty High School in Jackson.

The Jackson Liberty Lion Marching Band will host marching bands from throughout the region. Each band will present its competition field show and will be judged on its performance.

Residents of all communities are invited to attend the event at the Jackson Liberty High School football field, 125 North Hope Chapel Road, Jackson. The event will begin at 1:30 p.m. and run until 9 p.m.

Helmed by Band Director Scott Katona, the award-winning Jackson Liberty Lion Marching Band will perform its Ancient Egypt-themed field show, “The Tomb,” at 7:50 p.m.

The roster of bands competing, in addition to Jackson Liberty and Jackson Memorial
high schools, includes bands representing Brick Memorial High School and Brick Township
High School; Toms River East High School and Toms River North High School; Point Pleasant Borough High School; and high school marching bands representing schools in Florence Township, Lacey, Lawrence Township, Manchester, Middletown, Neptune, Hazlet, Rumson-Fair Haven, Sayreville, South Plainfield, West Windsor and Woodbridge.

Gates will open to spectators at 1 p.m. Tickets cost $10 per person and can be purchased
at the gate. Children under 4 will be admitted free. For more information, send an email to

The Tournament of Bands competition is sponsored by the Jackson Liberty Band Parent and Student Association and funds raised will benefit the band. The Liberty Lion band is one of the top ranked marching bands in New Jersey and has been on an extended winning streak, according to Katona.

“We have been New Jersey state champions since 2015. We have won every year
except the COVID year, 2020,” Katona said, adding that becoming a member of the
band is open to all.

“We encourage anybody to do it,” he said, “and once I get them my job is to make
them good and to make them better.”

The Jackson Liberty band is comprised of 63 students, which consists of drum majors, wind players (trumpet, saxophone and tubas), percussionists (snare drum, marimba, vibraphone, xylophone) and the color guard.

According to Katona, today’s marching band shows are theatrical and more popular
than ever.

“The marching band got really popular and I think it became popular because it
became so competitive. It’s a big competition now; who is going to win? Who is going to be the best? Who is the state champion?

“It went from cheering on a football team and playing at halftime to what it is now basically creating a theatrical show and telling a story through their instruments and through the color guard.

“You look at the evolution of it and what it used to be and we are still doing it, we are
supporting the football team, we play at halftime.

“But the creative side of it has just blown up and the kids love it because now they are
involved with the theatrical side and they are acting and portraying these different stories. They have added another dimension,” Katona said.

Katona and his wife, Assistant Band Director Jessie Katona, create a theme and a storyline
for a competition, he explained.

“We come up with these creative ideas. We have an arranger, Rob Stein, he writes our music, it’s all original. My wife and I come up with an idea we try and visualize and then we start writing out a storyline and a narration. We come up with different props we are going to use.

“For example, we are doing a journey, we are traveling through the desert to find this
tomb that no one has discovered yet, so it takes us through different levels of the
journey and there’s a sandstorm and then finally we discover it and we open the
tomb – and we do this all on the field – and there is a huge pyramid.

“We have hieroglyphics all over the field, there is a big pyramid like a mirage out in the desert and it opens and reveals the sarcophagus we have been looking for. We go above and beyond. Each year people talk about our show, they say, ‘holy cow, did you see what Jackson Liberty did?’ ” Katona said.

The Oct. 15 event at Jackson Liberty High School will include food, vendors, a mini-gift basket auction and 50/50 raffles.

Spectators will have the opportunity to vote for the best band director, and family members and friends of the participants will be able to purchase air grams, candy grams and duck grams for their favorite musicians.

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